Harry Potter Studio Tour
On Monday 9th January, 15 RES students and our teachers Miss Bayley and Mr Berriman visited the Harry Potter experience at the Warner Brothers studio. Everyone was very excited; quite a few of us are huge HP fans so this trip was something we has all been looking forward to for weeks.
When we arrived at the venue, we walked in to the main foyer area where there was a massive Christmas tree along with a display of costumes from the new JK Rowling film, the Harry Potter car suspended from the ceiling and the walls covered in huge portraits of the film stars; everyone was buzzing with excitement as we waited in line to go in to the exhibition.
Firstly, we were shown into a cinema style room where we watched a short documentary about the HP films. Even though most of us knew all the films well, this was very interesting as it reminded us of all the amazing characters and scenes from the films.
After that the screen lifted up to reveal a huge castle style door. This was the beginning of the tour and our first glimpse of the studio spaces where the films were produced.
This is what we saw when the doors opened, the banquet hall. All the tables were set ready with Christmas food and drinks. It was amazing to walk through this space as this is one area where so many scenes are shot in the films, you could just imagine be part of the cast!
Around the sides of the rooms, there were lots of Mannequins dressed in the Hogwarts school uniforms, the different houses were represented in different sections, all of us have our favourite houses which we feel we would be part of if we were Hogwarts students.
The exhibition is laid out really cleverly; there is so much to see but it just flows. As you walk round there are different areas which have been set up but they look like they have just been lifted directly out of the film set, all the tiny props are in their place like in this scene, which shows a potion mixing classroom. Until you see something like this you just don’t realise or appreciate how much detail goes into setting the scene in each and every room.
Also the lighting in the exhibition was really well thought out, some areas were very dark to make them feel a bit cold and creepy and others like this scene were well lit to make it feel homely and snug. In this section they had sensors which you could wave your hand over which in turn made ‘magical things’ happen, like a knife would start chopping vegetables on the work surface. There were so many things to get involved in as you walked around.
Some of us had a go at riding broomsticks too!!! For true harry potter fans this was VERY exciting as you can see from Sophie’s face in this photo!
The main purpose of our trip was to do the fabric distressing workshop but we had a little bit more time before that started to look around the exhibition so we took the opportunity to have a few photos taken!
Then at 12.30 we were met by the lady who took us out of the exhibition to start our work shop where we were going to learn about the distressing techniques used by costume designers to make outfits look worn and appropriate for different scenes. She started off by showing us some of the actual outfits worn on the film; some of us even got to touch a jacket that Daniel Radcliff wore!!! She spoke to us about the fabrics used and the reasons behind the choice- so for example, the one she is holding up in the picture was worn by Voldemort who is the main evil character in the film- his costume was made from 15 meters of silk which was all hand dyed to give it a slightly uneven greeny black colour; this was to make it look slightly old. The lady also pointed out the tiny details that you probably wouldn’t even notice on the big screen; she showed us where tiny little holes had been burnt into the fabric using (heated wire??). So much effort for something which you could barely see!! Also she said that they chose to use silk for this garment as you never see Voldemorts feet so this floor length garment helped achieve the illusion that he floats or glides in a creepy way, and the fact that the silk always had some sort of movement, even when the actor was completely still added to this eerie look. There was also another technique which was used on a different characters jacket- this was hot glue gun blobs to represent rain.
We then had the opportunity to do some group work, the lady introduced the activity by telling us the story of her terrible journey into work where she was in car crash but was so determined to get to our workshop that she had dragged herself out of the car, hiked up the motorway embankment, climb over wire fences just to get to us, she of course told us afterwards that she had just made that story up but asked HOW we could tell she had lied; Matt said because her clothes weren’t at all dirty or torn, she had no cuts or bruises from the crash etc. and that’s how she led on to our activity.
Within our groups we were given a large square of fabric which had been slashed and frayed in different ways, we were then asked to try to make up a scenario to explain how the fabric had come look like this. We all came up with weird stories, things like dogs chasing us and ripping our jackets to crazed squirrel attacks!!!
After we had shared our ideas one person from each group was asked to stand at the front with their groups sample, what we hadn’t realised until that point was that each sample had the same markings cut into it, but to slightly varying degrees. She then got us to order them, starting with the least distressed working up to the most distressed piece. This was to illustrate how a costume designer has to work. During the filming of a fight or battle scene a character may have up to 5 versions of the same outfit, all distressed to different levels to simulate different stages of the process.
Then we got the opportunity to try some of the tools for ourselves. We used scissors to make slashes in the fabric but then to fray the edges we used what looked like tooth brushes but the bristles were made from very scratchy wire. There were different varieties, some you had to brush on the fabric for quite a while to get some sort of effect, the others basically shredded the fabric so you had to be very careful. We also used the professional waxy pastes that they use to simulate things like mud, grass stains, blood and drool!! As you can see from the picture we all really worked into our samples to make them look as distressed as possible. It was great fun and a good introduction to some new techniques.
After we had tidied up, the lady showed us some of the props used in the film, in the pictures you can see her holding up a newspaper. Everyone of them is created especially for the film, in the top image you can see that on the front page all the articles are relevant and relate to wizardy themes.
In the bottom left image she is showing a news paper inside. This one just has normal real newspaper in the middle as this one would used folded up in a pile of papers in the film, the one on the right however would be one that a character would actually read in the film so EVERYTHING has been created to look authentic- all articles are even written in Latin to appear more real and in keeping with the film. Again it is this level of detail that you just don’t thing about until it is actually pointed out to you.
Everyone go t involved and asked and answered questions. It was a really informative session which not only gave us ideas about techniques we could possibly use in our own work but also into the role of the costume designer as a potential future career.
There are so many skilled jobs involved in this industry, it is no wonder that films such as the HP series have such a Massive budget to produce them. The lady showed us a prosthetic hairy chest piece which was made from latex. Each hair was inserted by hand and it took months to make. She told us that it cost £5000 to produce which we were all shocked by, but what shocked us even more was when she told us that that actual piece could only be used ONCE so they actually had to make a large number of them to film all the scenes necessary. The work shop was great and everyone left feeling they had learnt a lot.
After the workshop had finished, the lady took us back to the exhibition and we continued our way through all the magical streets and rooms; you are completely immersed in the surroundings that you forget you are on a set, you really feel like you are going to bump in to the characters.
We walked along Diagon alley. Pushed luggage trolleys through to platform 9 ¾, walked along the Hogwarts express and looked around the neighbourhood where Harry’s Aunt and Uncle lived with him in the first film.
We were able to walk around the outside of an enormous scale version of the Hogwarts building
Because of the time of year that we visited the exhibition, you can see that there was a real Christmas theme throughout. There was a light layer of snow covering this model. There was also a really interesting part of the exhibition where we were told about the different types of fake snow used.
The first was shredded paper, this was used for slow falling, delicate snow. The next was shredded plastic, this of course is slightly heavier so falls differently, they also can add glitter to this so that it shows up better on camera and this type of snow stays on clothing better too. And the final type (which felt amazing!) was the tiny white silicon balls which you hydrate with water and they puff up, the lady informed us that this is what you would find in babies nappies to absorb moisture. This looked and felt the most like snow however she said that this couldn’t be used in the model of Hogwarts as they had used it in the past but they found it eroded the modelling foam so had to be removed very quickly before it caused too much damage.
This is a truly magical exhibition and even though we now know lots of the behind the scene secrets, it gives you a new found appreciation for all of these films.
Everyone thought that this trip was amazing and we all spoke about what we enjoyed the most on the mini bus home. A lot of us plan to return to the exhibition at some point in the future as that was really interesting but overall we all felt really privileged to have done the workshop. Within this hour we found out so much information which we may not have read or heard if we had only done the tour. We would like to say a massive thank you to WHDFAS committee for agreeing to fund this trip for us, we are very grateful and found it hugely informative.